Public school lunches aren't always something to rave about, but the parents of some East Texas summer school students are ranting.
The meal consisted of Lunchables from the East Texas Food Bank. After a brief investigation, we learned those Lunchables were served well past their "use-by" date.
However, the director of the East Texas Food Bank says these meals are perfectly safe for kids to eat.
Thursday, students at Lindale ISD were scarfing down hot dogs, beans and fruit cups. But, Wednesday, one parent sent in a photo of the Lunchable their child was served. The purchase and use-by date read April 4, 2010... more than two years ago.
We saw one of those Lunchables Thursday. It wasn't in the cafeteria, but at the East Texas Food Bank, where they came from.
Food bank director Dennis Cullinane says there is more than one reason why that lunch was safe to eat.
"Particularly, the dates don't matter once the product is frozen, and if it's kept in its frozen state then it's going to be continually safe to eat," Cullinane says.
We asked about those bold letters on the box that say "DO NOT FREEZE." Cullinane says that's merely a recommendation.
"They don't want the boxes frozen because there is cheese in the box and the ham or turkey. It's a recommendation for the manufacturer's quality. It's not a safety item," he says.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the "Use-By" date on the Lunchable isn't a safety item either. It, too, is a quality recommendation set by Kraft Foods.
We gave their customer service hotline a call Thursday to see what they had to say. While they didn't label the food "dangerous," they did say they could no longer guarantee its flavor or texture.
"Though the meals are perfectly safe to eat, we're voluntarily removing them from our menu cycle because we want the families to be confident that the food bank is serving safe food," Cullinane says.
Cullinane ate one of the Lunchables himself. He says they taste like a Lunchable and he is sure there is nothing wrong with them.
Lindale ISD is one of 8 East Texas school districts participating in the East Texas Food Bank's summer food program. The superintendent did not meet with us Thursday, but told us over the phone the school has taken action to make sure something like this does not happen again.
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